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August 8, 2020

Gov. Newsom calls for Monterey County restaurants​ to close indoor dining

Monterey County bars must close all operations

MONTEREY COUNTY—Businesses across the Pajaro River Bridge were dealt another tough blow this week, as Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday called for Monterey County restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, zoos, museums and card rooms to close their indoor operations. 

Newsom also said the county’s bars must close all operations.

Monterey and five other counties—Colusa, Madera, Marin, Merced and San Diego—joined 17 counties around the state in reversing the reopening process by closing indoor services as Covid-19 cases have jumped in recent weeks.

Monterey County was placed on the state’s so-called “watch list” on July 2 after it exceeded the state’s 14-day threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 residents, county health officer Edward Moreno said. The county also surpassed the state’s three-day average of Covid-19 hospitalizations for a community of its size.

Two counties that were on the list last week, Contra Costa and Santa Clara, were removed this week after working with state officials to meet the criteria needed to continue the reopening process, Newsom said.

Moreno was on a conference call with the press when Newsom made his unexpected announcement on the social media platform Twitter. At that time, Moreno said the county was expecting a call from state officials so that they could craft a joint announcement on the closures. 

The countywide closures will last until state health officials “say otherwise,” according to the order issued by State Public Health Officer Sonia Y. Angell.

As of Thursday, there have been 2,343 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Monterey County and 17 deaths related to the disease. More than 1,300 county residents have recovered.

Cases in the northern reaches of the county have remained low. In the 95076 area code, which includes Pajaro and Las Lomas, there have been 38 reported cases and 22 people have recovered. 

Many Pajaro business owners were caught off guard by the decision but understood why the state issued the order.

“[The closure] does affect us, obviously, but if it’s to help protect the community, myself, my family and everyone around us, I understand it,” said Leticia Morales, owner of the Camino Real Cafe in Pajaro, through an interpreter.

Morales said she reopened her restaurant for sit-down dining two weeks ago and was open for 10 days before returning to takeout only on Wednesday. Her sales did rise slightly in those 10 days, she said. 

She said the recent rise in cases did not surprise her, as many residents have acted as if Covid-19 has disappeared. People are still partying, going out to bars and not taking the necessary steps to limit the virus’ spread, she said.

“It was inevitable that this was going to happen,” she said.

Restaurants can continue to offer sit-down dining if they have an outdoor option. But Morales’ business has no patio, and she said it was unlikely that she will apply for the necessary permits to conduct business outdoors. 

“For me, I don’t know if it makes sense,” she said.

Just down the street at The Turkey Boat, owner Linda Flores is echoing her fellow small business owners, saying that the Covid-19 restrictions have put a strain on their financial stability. With people out of work and struggling to find monetary assistance, their customer base has shrunk to their loyal consumers. The catering portion of their business has, too, faltered.

“It’s been tough,” she said. “It’s hit me—considerably.”

Flores closed her doors to the public when the shelter-in-place restrictions first went into effect in mid-March and she does not plan to reopen her dining room any time soon. Her restaurant offers curbside pickup and is open from 11am-6pm.

“I’ve played it safe from the beginning,” she said. “I just come here and I go home. I’m trying to follow the rules that are in place.”

Monday’s decision was not only tough on restaurants but other large businesses too. The Monterey Bay Aquarium was planning on opening its doors Thursday but had to postpone its reopening to an undisclosed date.

“While this postponement is disappointing, following this guidance from the state and Monterey County Health Department is in the best interest of public health and safety,” the aquarium stated in a press release. 

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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